Christian Biblical Counsel: INFERTILITY

Infertility

Building Hope from Broken Dreams

by June Hunt

“Natural children are not the only heritage or blessing which God can give. The blessing of salvation, if there were no other, is enough to give us constant rejoicing.”

—Vicky Love

I.     Definitions

A. What Is Infertility?

•     Infertility is the inability to conceive or give birth to a child after one or more years of normal sexual relations.

Myth:

“Infertility is rare.”

Truth:

One in six couples of childbearing age is infertile.

B. What Is Secondary Infertility?

•     Secondary infertility is the inability to conceive or give birth to a child following at least one successful pregnancy.

Myth:

“Once you have given birth to a child, you can always have another.”

Truth:

Secondary infertility is more common than primary infertility due to onset of medical problems and the lessening of fertility as the couple ages.

C. What Is Sterility?

•     Sterility is the inability to reproduce offspring.

Myth:

“Infertility is synonymous with sterility.”

Truth:

Sterility is an irreversible condition. Infertility is a current condition that can possibly be altered.

 

II.    Characteristics

A. A Female Can Feel …

•     incomplete and unfulfilled as a woman

•     inadequate as a wife (failure)

•     intense grief over loss of motherhood

•     suppressed anger at God

•     guilty about past promiscuity

•     low self-esteem

•     self-pity

•     lonely and isolated from friends

•     obsessed with becoming pregnant

•     loss of hope for future happiness

 

Myth:

“My highest calling is to bear and raise children.”

Truth:

Your highest calling is to be conformed to the character of Christ.

“Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29)

B. A Male Can Feel …

•     incomplete as a man

•     self-pity

•     shame and embarrassment

•     difficulty expressing emotions

•     sadness over not becoming a father

•     anger at God and/or at his wife’s   discontentment

•     self-pity

•     guilty for not being able to fix the   problem

•     low self-esteem

•     loss of interest in intimacy and sex

•     a sense of failure in not passing on the   family name

 

Myth:

“I could love only a child that is my own.”

Truth:

An adoptive child can be loved just as deeply as a birth child.

“Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine.” (Genesis 48:5)

C. Pathway from Pain to Peace

•     Assumption

 

“Naturally,   I’ll have children.”

 

•     Anxiety

 

“Is something   wrong?”

 

•     Denial

 

“It’s just a   matter of time until I conceive.”

 

•     Shock

 

“I never   dreamed this would happen to me!”

 

•     Anger

 

“It’s not fair   that this could happen to me!”

 

•     Bargaining

 

“God, give me   a child, and I’ll be a better person.”

 

•     Guilt

 

“This must be   punishment for sin.”

 

•     Isolation

 

“I’ll never be   like others.”

 

•     Depression

 

“I’ll never be   happy.”

 

•     Apathy

 

“It doesn’t   really matter.”

 

•     Grief

 

“The desire of   my life is destroyed.”

 

•     Seeking

 

“God, please   help me understand my pain.”

 

•     Acceptance

 

“I’ll seek   God’s desire for my life.”

 

•     Growth

 

“I will focus   on serving others.”

 

•     Peace

 

“Thank You,   God, for revealing Yourself to me through my pain.”

 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 4:6–7)

Myth:

“My infertility is a punishment from God.”

Truth:

Infertility is not a punishment, but is rather a physical condition with a variety of causes and treatments.

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

(Proverbs 13:12)

 

III.   Causes

A. Surface Causes of Infertility

•     delaying having children

•     inadequate knowledge of reproductive cycle

•     poor general health

•     physical problems

•     excessively tight male undergarments

Q   “My wife and I have been trying unsuccessfully to have a child. I’ve heard that men need to be aware of certain things they could be doing to hamper fertilization. What are they?”

Studies have shown that wearing tight undergarments can cause infertility in males. And sometimes, extended bike riding can cause numbness, nerve damage and impotence, depending on the type of seat on the bicycle. Contact an impotency specialist or an infertility specialist for information, testing and evaluation.

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” (Proverbs 19:20)

B. Core Cause of Infertility

The Sovereignty of God

•     God opens the womb.

“When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.” (Genesis 29:31)

“Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb.” (Genesis 30:22)

•     God closes the womb.

“To Hannah [Elkanah] he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb.” (1 Samuel 1:5)

“The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” (Genesis 16:2)

C. Root Cause of Bitterness as a Result of Infertility

Wrong Belief:

“I have a right to have my own children. My sense of purpose is found in fulfilling a parental role.”

Right Belief:

I have yielded my rights to God. My fulfillment will come through the meaning and purpose God has planned for my life.

“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)

 

IV.  Steps To Solution

A. Key Verse to Memorize

“ ‘Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,’ says the Lord.”

(Isaiah 54:1)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

God’s Covenant with the Childless

Isaiah   54:1–8

 

•     God gives the childless a happy heart.

 

v. 1

 

•     God opens the heart of the childless to   others.

 

v. 2

 

•     God gives the childless many spiritual   descendants.

 

v. 3

 

•     God secures the future of the childless.

 

v. 4

 

•     God removes shame, humiliation and   disgrace.

 

v. 4

 

•     God erases the pain and disappointment.

 

v. 4

 

•     God gathers the childless to Himself with   compassion.

 

v. 7

 

•     God’s love is everlasting.

 

v. 8

 

C. When Having Children Seemed Hopeless

The following are biblical examples of answered prayer in situations that appeared hopeless.

Sarah

 

•     Sarah was unable to have children.

 

Genesis 11:30

 

•     She lost faith and took matters into her   own hands.

 

Genesis 16:1–4

 

•     She had a child past the normal   childbearing years.

 

Genesis 21:1–3

 

•     Sarah learned that nothing is too   difficult for God.

 

Genesis   18:13–14

 

Rachel

 

•     Rachel was unable to have children.

 

Genesis 29:31

 

•     She became jealous of her sister who had   children.

 

Genesis 30:1

 

•     She lost faith and took matters into her   own hands.

 

Genesis 30:3

 

•     Rachel learned that God answers   consistent prayers.

 

Genesis 30:22

 

Hannah

 

•     Hannah was unable to have children.

 

1 Samuel 1:2,   5

 

•     She became greatly distressed over her   childlessness.

 

1 Samuel 1:7–8

 

•     She made a vow to give her child to God.

 

1 Samuel 1:11

 

•     Hannah learned that God honors a faithful   heart.

 

1 Samuel 1:20

 

Elizabeth

 

•     Elizabeth was unable to have children.

 

Luke 1:7

 

•     She lived an upright, blameless life.

 

Luke 1:6

 

•     She felt disgraced because of her   childlessness.

 

Luke 1:25

 

•     Elizabeth learned that God is great in   mercy.

 

Luke 1:58

 

D. Evaluate the Options

Open your heart to accepting a childless marriage.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)

Participate in infertility tests for possible alternatives.

“Every prudent man acts out of knowledge.” (Proverbs 13:16)

Trade parenting for other roles in life that can be just as rewarding.

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

Invest your life in the lives of others.

“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.” (Isaiah 54:2)

Offer long-term relationships to nieces, nephews and other young people.

“ ‘Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband,’ says the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:1)

Nurture a deep marital relationship with your spouse.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

Seek adoption as an option.

“When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water.’ ” (Exodus 2:10)

Myth:

“If we adopt a child, then we’ll probably have our own birth child.”

Truth:

Parents who adopt have a birth child only five percent of the time.

“All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:2)

E. Coping for Couples

•     Concentrate on nurturing your marriage.

“Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” (Philippians 2:2)

•     Communicate the love you have for your spouse.

“No one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” (Ephesians 5:29–31)

•     Confess the fears and feelings you have regarding childlessness.

“An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” (Proverbs 24:26)

•     Compliment, affirm and support your spouse verbally.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

•     Confront difficulties and differences directly.

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love.” (Proverbs 27:5)

•     Create a lifestyle of growth and variety.

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

•     Cultivate friends who are also childless.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

•     Consider the opportunities you can have ministering to others.

“I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” (Titus 3:8)

•     Commit each day to the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

•     Crucify selfish desires and become a living sacrifice for your spouse.

“I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

F.  Contentment in Childlessness

•     I will bring my anxious heart to God in prayer.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

•     I know that God has the sovereign right to be the Creator of life.

“See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:39)

•     I know that God realizes it is hard for me to understand His ways.

“ ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ ” (Isaiah 55:8–9)

•     I will trust totally in God even when I can’t understand.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

•     I know that God is concerned with the desires of my heart.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

•     I will lean on God to help bear my pain.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2)

•     I will seek comfort in the Scriptures.

“Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)

•     I will thank God for His goodness.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1)

•     I will be content with the way God answers my prayers.

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11)

•     I will praise God for His faithfulness to me.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22–23)

Though   you are physically childless, you need not be spiritually childless. If you   focus on those who are hurting and feed those who are spiritually hungry,   you’ll find your quiver delightfully full of sons and daughters in the faith.

June   Hunt

 

 

Don’ts for Friends and Relatives

“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to   their ways.”

(Proverbs 14:8)

•     Don’t assume that every childless   couple chooses to be childless.

•     Don’t underestimate the grief a   childless couple may be experiencing.

•     Don’t ask why they don’t have   children.

•     Don’t offer “unasked for” advice.

•     Don’t make trite comments like,   “Just relax and stop worrying about it.”

•     Don’t assume infertility is just   the woman’s problem.

•     Don’t monopolize conversations   with discussions of children.

•     Don’t be afraid to discuss the   problem if they know that you really love them and care about them.

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and   the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.”

(Proverbs 27:9)

 

Selected Bibliography

Baughan, Jill. A Hope Deferred: A Couple’s Guide to Coping with Infertility. Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1989.

Bridwell, Debra. The Ache for a Child. Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1994.

Glahn, Sandra, and William Cutrer. When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden: Encouragement for Couples Facing Infertility. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1997.

Hinton, Clara. Silent Grief. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf, 1997.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008

Love, Vicky. Childless Is Not Less. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany, 1984.

Nash, Ronald H. When a Baby Dies: Answers to Comfort Grieving Parents. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.

Stout, Martha. Without Child: A Compassionate Look at Infertility. Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw, 1990.

Trent, Alan, and Patricia Hatfield Trent. Barren Couples Broken Hearts. San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life, 1991.

Van Regenmorter, John, and Sylvia Van Regenmorter. “Infertility: Everyone’s Problem.” Stepping Stones, February–March 1987, 1–2.

Van Regenmorter, John, Sylvia Van Regenmorter, and Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr. Dear God, Why Can’t We Have a Baby? A Guide for the Infertile Couple. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986.

Worthington, Everett L., Jr. Counseling for Unplanned Pregnancy and Infertility. Resources for Christian Counseling, ed. Gary R. Collins, vol. 10. Waco, TX: Word, 1987.

Zarecor, Laura. “Secondary Infertility Hurts, Too.” Stepping Stones, August–September 1988, 2.[1]

 


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Infertility: Building Hope from Broken Dreams (1–13). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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